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Chief Trump science adviser moves against foreign threat to research secrets

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President Trump’s chief science adviser says one of his top priorities is to protect America’s research institutions from foreign exploitation.

The policy follows a string of high-profile cases of government-funded scientists being fired by universities for failing to disclose ties with China.

The issue has provoked fears among scientists that the Trump administration is treating foreign researchers unfairly, but Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said the issue is one of integrity and scientific ethics.

Declaring sources of funding and professional relationships, he said, is a longstanding requirement.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” he said. “The individual researcher has to behave with integrity. If they know the rules and they break the rules, I don’t want them in the research enterprise.

“They don’t belong there. It’s just as if they plagiarized a paper or they fabricated a result.”

In May, Emory University in Georgia dismissed two Chinese American brain scientists who failed to disclose overseas funding and research ties in China.

At about the same time a former Energy Department scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory was charged with making false statements about his alleged involvement in a Chinese recruitment program. He pleaded not guilty.

Of particular concern is the Thousand Talents program, which exists to attract leading thinkers from Western universities to work in China, helping build its science capacity.

Droegemeier recently established the Joint Committee on Research Environment to address this and other issues to ensure the U.S. continues to lead the world in research.

As well as research security, its four pillars include building safe and inclusive workplaces, promoting the robustness and reproducibility of research, and reducing the paperwork burden on scientists.

It is all underpinned by American values, he said, to ensure that as well as funding and facilities, researchers have the freedom and openness they need to innovate.

“We know China doesn’t play by the rules of the game. It’s very important that anyone who is in our R&D system here in America plays by the rules,” he said.

“Whether they are from Norman, Oklahoma, or they’re from Beijing, China, that’s fundamental to the conduct of research.”

JCORE is collecting examples of infractions from scientific bodies around the country, which Droegemeier said would be disseminated to promote best practices and develop guidelines to protect American research.